The Exploitation of Women for Sex in Weed Country is Rampant
HUMBOLT COUNTY, Calif. - The reports of women alleging rape and sexual harassment while trimming marijuana during harvest season are staggering. Because marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, many women are too afraid to report assaults because they fear law enforcement. Other women are immigrants and are scared of deportation so they don’t file police reports. The lack of law enforcement accessibility allows predators to get away with raping, molesting and harassing women.
Many women shared accounts of spending their summers trimming cannabis buds to earn money for college. Workers hired to trim cannabis are typically paid once at the end of the harvest and can earn thousands of dollars in a few weeks. Several women attending Humboldt State University revealed that after working for several months from June to November on a marijuana farm, their boss wouldn’t pay them unless they performed oral sex on him. Other accounts from female workers revealed that several male growers requested that the women work topless for more pay.
Trafficking is on the predator’s list as well. One woman reported being used as a sex toy by two men and was kept in a locked box with breathing holes in it for days. They shocked her with a cattle prod and made her defecate inside the metal box. She said the men were afraid that she would run away and threatened to kill her. It is common for women to seek out trimming work and later drugged and used for sexual abuse and trafficking.
Exploitation is rampant and law enforcement is seemingly unmotivated to help the victims. After a San Francisco woman went to trim in Humboldt County and then disappeared, her mother reported her missing and filed a report. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office labeled her as missing voluntarily and gave the case the lowest priority. It turned out that she was being drugged and raped at the farm. The attitude of the law enforcement officials is disturbing. The North Coast Rape Crisis Center says that it’s common practice for women to be hired for trimming marijuana and once on the isolated farms, they are often drugged then raped, with no way out.
There is often no cell phone reception and many farms are hidden in the mountains. Some women reported being harassed by their boss for oral sex and refusing, leaving with no idea how they would get back to civilization. They sometimes hitchhiked or walked aimlessly just to get away from the perpetrators.
Law enforcement seems to ignore the reports and concentrate on busting illegal cultivators. Investigators say that predators know how little interest the Sheriff’s Department has in going after traffickers. There are not even any agencies that are investigating human trafficking. Victims are lumped together with the flood of prostitutes that come into the county during the season looking to earn money from lonely men.
Many victims’ advocates are hoping that once marijuana is fully legal, women will be safer and feel more comfortable reporting harassment or assault. Since permits will be required for cultivators, hopefully, the bad apples will be weeded out. Even so, investigators are encouraging women to work in teams or groups when accepting trimming work.
Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She writes about activism, social justice, news, politics, comedy, education and marketing